Game analysis: Sunday’s loss will hurt more later

The Spurs’ hardest week of the season to date started Sunday night in a bad way.

After struggling down the stretch against Minnesota Friday night, the Spurs almost stole a victory at Dallas thanks to a dramatic bench performance before falling 101-100 in overtime.

As much as the Spurs might feel good about the bench’s effort, the realization that games against Memphis, Houston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City loom in the next six days remains daunting.    

Sunday night might be a moral victory for some, but the Spurs still lost to a division foe and their most bitter rival to boot. They fell out of first place in a game where they limited Dirk Nowitzki to 10 points on 5-for-14 shooting and still lost.

The bench played well, but ran out of gas at the end.

It’s a loss that likely will hurt more on April 26 — the day the season ends — than it does now.

Game analysis: After a struggling effort by the regulars, the Spurs’ bench made a strong comeback before wearing out late in regulation and in overtime against the defending NBA champions.

Where the game was won: After Danny Green’s layup gave the Spurs a 98-95 lead with 1:18 left in overtime, Dallas went to its veterans to claim the comeback. Nowitzki overcame a frigid shooting night to hit a banker. Jason Terry then hit 12-foot turnaround and a pair of free throws to put them ahead 101-98. Gary Neal’s layup pulled them within a point, but Green’s game-winning 27-footer at the buzzer clanked off the rim to allow Dallas to escape.

Look at the monitor to see how close the Spurs came:   The Spurs had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but Green’s game-winning hoop was waved off when replays showed it was released a millisecond after the buzzer.

Give it up to the bench: Terry’s jumper gave Dallas a 67-49 lead with 3:43 left in the third quarter, the Spurs bench hit the Mavericks with a 35-8 spurt that gave them an 84-75 lead on Neal’s jumper with 5:33 left. Popovich stayed with them for the rest of regulation and the subs couldn’t make that cushion stand up as Dallas charged back.

Player of the game I: Spurs Nation favorite Terry earned a few more boos on his next trip to the ATT Center after erupting for a season-high 34 points on 14-for-23 shooting.

Player of the game II: It looked like  it was 1999 all over after a couple of Vince Carter’s circus shots. It helped him score 21 points as the Spurs struggled to contain him throughout the game.

Player of the game III:  Neal had been looking for a breakout game all season as he plays himself into shape after missing training camp with appendicitis. He might have gotten that effort Sunday with a season-high 19 points, seven assists and three 3-pointers as he helped  boost San Antonio’s strong bench effort with 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Most unsung: Most observers think  the Mavericks will miss  Tyson Chandler as the season progresses. That might be true, but Rick Carlisle got a nice effort out of his pivot tandem of Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi. The center duo combined for only seven points, but contributed 16 rebounds and six blocked shots as they made life difficult inside for the Spurs throughout the game.

Did you notice I: The loudest cheerleaders for the Spurs at Sunday’s game were their starters on the bench.  Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were giggling like JV members throughout the fourth quarter as the Spurs’ bench nearly escaped with the victory.

Did you notice II: The men in the striped shirts didn’t have a good night — particularly down the stretch. First, game officials appeared to miss a traveling call on Nowitzki as he clumsly tried to get the ball up court while appearing to try to call a timeout before Dallas’ final possession of regulation. And Bill Kennedy was woefully out of place on the Spurs’ final play in overtime, running into Green before his desperation heave at the buzzer.

Stat of the game: After being outscored by the Dallas bench 26-4 to start the game, San Antonio’s substitutes accounted for its final 51 points of the game.

Stat of the game II : San Antonio hit 7 of 8 from 3-point territory in the fourth quarter after starting the game hitting 4 of 14 from beyond the arc.

Stat of the game III: The Spurs hit only 10 of 19 foul shots. Their 52.6 percentage was a season-low and was their lowest since shooting 50 percent from the line in a loss to Portland on March 28, 2011.

Weird stat of the game: Nowitzki was limited 10 points in 37:54. It marked only the eighth time in Nowitzki’s career that he has been limited to 10 points or less in at least 37 minutes.

Weird stat of the game II: After grabbing only two offensive rebounds Friday night at Minnesota, the Spurs bounced back to grab 14 against the Mavericks. It was one of their five top offensive rebounding efforts of the season.

Not a good sign: The Spurs hit 41.5 percent from the field, marking their second straight game below 42 percent. The Spurs have shot 41.4 percent in their two most recent road losses after hitting 52.9 percent in victories over New Orleans and Atlanta last week.

Best plus/minus scores: James Anderson was plus-17, Neal was plus-9 and Tiago Splitter and Green were plus-8.

Worst plus/minus scores: Kawhi Leonard and Parker were minus-10 and Richard Jefferson was minus-9.

Quote of the game: “You don’t see that very often, but we were on fire shooting threes. That got us back in the game. It was simple as that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich describing his bench’s late perimeter spurt.

How the schedule stacks up: The Spurs will travel to Memphis for the back end of a back-to-back on Monday. They then will entertain Houston on Wednesday, New Orleans on Thursday and Oklahoma City on Saturday. Dallas will travel to Phoenix on Monday before home games Wednesday against Oklahoma City and Friday against Indiana.

Injuries: Manu Ginobili missed his 16th game (Spurs record 9-7) after undergoing surgery for a fractured fifth left metacarpal.  T.J. Ford missed his 11th game (Spurs record 6-5) with a torn left hamstring. Minnesota starting point guard Jason Kidd is expected to miss about a week with a strained right calf. Nowitzki returned to action after missing the last four games with knee/conditioning issues.

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